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Maize Spm transposable element has an enhancer-insensitive promoter

Raina, R., Cook, D., Fedoroff, N.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1993 v.90 no.13 pp. 6355-6359
Zea mays, gene expression, genetic code, luciferase, transposons, transcription (genetics)
We have used a transient assay system to investigate the promoter region of the maize Suppressor-mutator (Spm) transposable element. All of the sequence required for constitutive promoter activity is confined to the 0.2-kb sequence upstream from the transcription start site of the element at nt 209 and designated the upstream control region. The element's promoter is weak, lacks a conventional TATA box, and depends on the presence of multiple, short repetitive sequence elements. The Spm promoter is quite insensitive to the enhancer sequence of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter. Enhancer sensitivity can be restored by providing a -30 TATA sequence and removing the G+C-rich sequence encoding the untranslated leader of the element, designated the downstream control region. Although the downstream control region is without effect on Spm promoter activity, it completely inhibits the 35S core promoter and markedly inhibits activity of the complete 35S promoter. The properties of the Spm element's promoter buffer it from both mutational and position-dependent changes in activity. We suggest that the inherent characteristics of the promoter are part of the genetic mechanism that controls the element's transposition frequency, ensuring it remains low and insertion-site independent.